A faith story
I loved this reminiscence and faith story which Gavin White, a schoolfriend of mine posted yesterday on his 67th birthday, and share it here with his permission. I always remember Gavin as a very kind and thoughtful young man.
On this day, 67 years ago, I was born in a room and kitchen, in a row of terraced cottages on the Bonkle Road. (My brother William would arrive 2343 days later). We had an outside toilet and used cut up newspaper squares for toilet paper. The washing was done in the communal wash house at the back of the cottages on a Monday. Each cottage had its own vegetable plot. My mum’s aunt and her family lived next door, and my gran and papa lived at the end of the row. In the other direction was Mrs Maxwell and three generations of her family. Next to her were the Streffords, then my mum’s cousin and her family (aunt Isa, uncle Johnny and cousin Alex). Next again was my mum’s brother and his family (uncle David, aunt Annie, cousin Elizabeth and later Wilma). At the far end lived Mary Smart, whose family owned the ‘fruiterer’s’, married to Andy Radcliffe, the insurance man. They soon moved to the ‘other side of the tracks’ to live in a huge bungalow with all mod cons. Once a quarter, the cottages were scrubbed clean to an inch of their lives and everyone wore their Sunday best to await the arrival of Mrs Somerville who came to collect the rent.
Sunday best was kept for church on Sunday. Most of us turned left and walked to Bonkle church, but aunt Isa, uncle Johnny and Alex went in the other direction to drive to Wishaw Baptist, a couple of miles away. I was baptised by the minister, Mr Hill, just before Christmas. I’m told the hymns were ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. I never knew Mr Hill. The next minister was the Rev George D McMillan who had polio as a child and he was a lovely man, full of kindness and encouragement. Although there were two services – morning and evening – we only ever went to the morning one. But, on my sixteenth birthday, I decided I would attend the evening service. There was a completely different atmosphere – quiet, contemplative, lots of empty pews – but I was drawn to it. Then one evening Mr McMillan preached a sermon that changed my life forever. He spoke about ‘Standing in the Shadow of the Cross’ and wondered how many disciples were near it and then asked, quite simply, where we stood. Were we under the Cross or at a distance. And that was that. I had to stand under the Cross and acknowledge the Lord as my Saviour. At the end of the service I ran to the vestry to tell him what I had decided and asked if I could have his sermon. He gave me a few sheets of old, stained paper (he had obviously preached this sermon many times over the years) to read but he asked for them back because he might need to preach it again. Life has never been the same since. I’m grateful for Mr McMillan’s humble witness; grateful for the encouragement and support of close Christian friends throughout my life and; grateful that the Lord has kept His promise never to leave me nor forsake me and I daily bless Him for that.
A debtor to mercy alone,
of covenant mercy I sing;
nor fear, with your righteousness on,
my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
with me can have nothing to do;
my Savior’s obedience and blood
hide all my transgressions from view.
2 The work which his goodness began,
the arm of his strength will complete;
his promise is yea and amen,
and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
nor all things below or above,
can make him his purpose forgo,
or sever my soul from his love.
3 My name from the palms of his hands
eternity will not erase;
impressed on his heart it remains,
in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
more happy, but not more secure,
the glorified spirits in heav’n.”